Joshua Wong, 18, a student leader of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, was assaulted by an as-of-yet unidentified attacker. Wong was out on a date with his girlfriend when the assailant attacked him and his girlfriend outside a movie theater near the site of important protests from last year.
The attacker put Wong in a “chokehold and punched his left eye.” His girlfriend was also physically assaulted by the attacker when she tried to intervene.
Wong had to go to the hospital immediately after the attack but is expected to recover shortly.
Police say that the suspect is a man in his early 20s who remains at large. Wong’s girlfriend described him as “muscular.”
“Being attacked on the way home after going on a date, and even attacking my girlfriend, is shameful,” Wong said.
Wong is the head and co-founder of a student group called Scholarism, which has been standing up for democracy in Hong Kong as the Chinese government seeks to exert more control on the former British colony.
Scholarism has officially stated that they believe Wong was assaulted because of his political activism.
“The reason for the incident may be because the attacker held different political views and therefore used violence to intimidate Scholarism members,” the group said in a statement.
“[The attack] implies activists are facing the danger of attacks in their daily lives, not only during protests. This sends a chill to my heart,” Wong also said.
Wong is not the only anti-establishment activist who faces violence for being vocally opposed to China’s anti-democracy efforts.
Kevin Lau, the chief editor of a newspaper in Hong Kong known for its pro-democracy leanings, was stabbed nine times last spring in a brutal knife attack.
“We have now entered the… stage in which violent confrontations between the two camps, namely the pro-democracy and the pro-Beijing groups, appear to be inevitable,” Sunny Lo, a political analyst and Hong Kong expert, said.
On Sunday, fights broke out between groups of the opposed factions in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok area. The police arrested five pro-democracy protestors.